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104th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
2d Session 104-789
PAROLE COMMISSION PHASEOUT ACT OF 1996
September 16, 1996.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on
the State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Hyde, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany S. 1507]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the Act
(S. 1507) to provide for the extension of the Parole Commission
to oversee cases of prisoners sentenced under prior law, to
reduce the size of the Parole Commission, and for other
purposes, having considered the same, report favorably thereon
with an amendment and recommend that the Act as amended do
The Amendment.................................................... 1
Purpose and Summary.............................................. 2
Background and Need for Legislation.............................. 3
Committee Consideration.......................................... 3
Vote of the Committee............................................ 3
Committee Oversight Findings..................................... 4
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight Findings............ 4
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures........................ 4
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate........................ 4
Inflationary Impact Statement.................................... 5
Section-by-Section Analysis...................................... 5
Agency Views..................................................... 6
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported............ 7
The amendment is as follows:
Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu
thereof the following:
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Parole Commission Phaseout Act of
SEC. 2. EXTENSION OF PAROLE COMMISSION.
(a) In General.--For purposes of section 235(b) of the Sentencing
Reform Act of 1984 (98 Stat. 2032) as it related to chapter 311 of
title 18, United States Code, and the Parole Commission, each reference
in such section to ``ten years'' or ``ten-year period'' shall be deemed
to be a reference to ``fifteen years'' or ``fifteen-year period'',
(b) Powers and Duties of Parole Commission.--Notwithstanding section
4203 of title 18, United States Code, the United States Parole
Commission may perform its functions with any quorum of Commissioners,
or Commissioner, as the Commission may prescribe by regulation.
(c) Reduction in Size.--
(1) Effective December 31, 1999, the total number of
Commissioners of the United States Parole Commission shall not
be greater than 2. To the extent necessary to achieve this
reduction, the Commissioner or Commissioners least senior in
service shall cease to hold office.
(2) Effective December 31, 2001, the United States Parole
Commission shall consist only of that Commissioner who is the
Chairman of the Commission;
(3) Effective when the Commission consists of only one
(A) that Commissioner (or in the Commissioner's
absence, the Attorney General) may delegate to one or
more hearing examiners the powers set forth in
paragraphs (1) through (4) of section 4203(b) of title
18, United States Code; and
(B) decisions made pursuant to such delegation shall
take effect when made, but shall be subject to review
and modification by the Commissioner.
SEC. 3. REPORTS BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL.
(a) In General.--Beginning in the year 1998, the Attorney General
shall report to the Congress not later than May 1 of each year through
the year 2002 on the status of the United States Parole Commission.
Unless the Attorney General, in such report, certifies that the
continuation of the Commission is the most effective and cost-efficient
manner for carrying out the Commission's functions, the Attorney
General shall include in such report an alternative plan for a transfer
of the Commission's functions to another entity.
(b) Transfer within the Department of Justice.--
(1) Effect of plan.--If the Attorney General includes such a
plan in the report, and that plan provides for the transfer of
the Commission's functions and powers to another entity within
the Department of Justice, such plan shall take effect
according to its terms on November 1 of that year in which the
report is made, unless Congress by law provides otherwise. In
the event such plan takes effect, all laws pertaining to the
authority and jurisdiction of the Commission with respect to
individual offenders shall remain in effect notwithstanding the
expiration of the period specified in section 2 of this Act.
(2) Conditional repeal.--Effective on the date such plan
takes effect, paragraphs (3) and (4) of section 235(b) of the
Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (98 Stat 2032) are repealed.
SEC. 4. REPEAL.
Section 235(b)(2) of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (98 Stat.
2032) is repealed.
Purpose and Summary
The United States Parole Commission is currently set to
expire on November 1, 1997. S. 1507, the ``Parole Commission
Phaseout Act,'' would extend the United States Parole
Commission for an additional five years.
S. 1507 also requires the Attorney General to report to
Congress every year on the progress of the phaseout, and it
directs the Attorney General to suggest an alternative plan for
a more cost-effective and efficient manner to carry out the
Parole Commission's functions. S. 1507 also mandates a
reduction in the number of Commissioners.
Background and Need for the Legislation
In the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, (Pub. L. 98-473),
Congress eliminated eligibility for parole for all federal
offenders whose crimes were committed on or after November 1,
1987. To handle the prisoners who had committed crimes before
November 1, 1987, so called ``old law'' prisoners, Congress
continued the Parole Commission until November 1, 1992. Because
of the large number of ``old law'' prisoners still in prison by
1992, and because the Sentencing Reform Act did not make any
provisions for continuing the necessary functions of the Parole
Commission beyond that date, Congress extended the life of the
Parole Commission until November 1, 1997, in the Judicial
Improvements Act of 1990, (Pub. L. 101-650). Currently, the
Parole Commission is set to expire on that date, and S. 1507,
the ``Parole Commission Phaseout Act,'' would extend the life
of the Parole Commission for an additional five years.
At the end of fiscal year 1996, there will still be
approximately 6,700 parole-eligible, ``old law'' defendants in
the federal system. Constitutional requirements, specifically
the ex post facto clause, necessitate the extension of the
Commission, or the establishment of a similar entity authorized
by statute to perform its functions. Otherwise, those remaining
``old law'' offenders will file habeas corpus petitions,
seeking release on the grounds that their right to be
considered for parole had been unconstitutionally eliminated.
If such petitions were successful, public safety may be
jeopardized by the release of dangerous criminals.
The Committee has also determined that the most cost-
efficient approach at the present time for considering parole
applications for federal prisoners is to use the Parole
The Committee's Subcommittee on Crime held one day of
hearings on S. 1507 on June 6, 1996. Testimony was received
from three witnesses: Chairman Edward F. Reilly, representing
the United States Parole Commission, Robert S. Litt, Deputy
Assistant Attorney General, representing the Department of
Justice, and Judge Richard J. Arcara, representing the Judicial
Conference of the United States. Additional material was
submitted by the United States Marshals Service.
On July 10, 1996, the Subcommittee on Crime met in open
session and ordered favorably reported the bill S. 1507 by a
voice vote, a quorum being present. On September 11, 1996, the
Full Committee met in open session and ordered reported
favorably the bill S. 1507 without amendment by a voice vote, a
quorum being present.
Vote of the Committee
There were no recorded votes.
Committee Oversight Findings
In compliance with clause 2(l)(3)(A) of rule XI of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee reports
that the findings and recommendations of the Committee, based
on oversight activities under clause 2(b)(1) of rule X of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, are incorporated in the
descriptive portions of this report.
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight Findings
No findings or recommendations of the Committee on
Government Reform and Oversight were received as referred to in
clause 2(l)(3)(D) of rule XI of the Rules of the House of
New Budget Authority and Tax Expenditures
Clause 2(l)(3)(B) of House rule XI is inapplicable because
this legislation does not provide new budgetary authority or
increased tax expenditures.
Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate
In compliance with clause 2(l)(C)(3) of rule XI of the
Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee sets
forth, with respect to the bill, S. 1507, the following
estimate and comparison prepared by the Director of the
Congressional Budget Office under section 403 of the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974:
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, September 16, 1996.
Hon. Henry J. Hyde,
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
reviewed S. 1507, the Parole Commission Phaseout Act of 1996,
as ordered reported by the House Committee on the Judiciary on
September 11, 1996. CBO estimates that enacting this act would
result in no significant impact on the federal budget. S. 1507
would not affect direct spending or receipts, so pay-as-you-go
procedures would not apply. The act contains no
intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-4) and
would have no effect on the budgets of state, local, or tribal
In 1987, the federal government eliminated parole for
persons convicted of federal crimes and the United States
Parole Commission was scheduled to be phased out over five
years. A subsequent law extended the commission to 1997. S.
1507 would extend the commission for an additional five years,
providing for a gradual reduction in size and phaseout by the
The United States Parole Commission has parole jurisdiction
over all eligible federal prisoners and continuing jurisdiction
over those released on parole. The commission projects that at
the end of fiscal year 1997 there will be an incarcerated
caseload of about 6,000 and a parolee caseload of about 10,000.
These numbers have declined over the past several years and
will continue to decrease, but substantial numbers will remain
through the end of the decade and thereafter. Thus, even if the
commission is terminated as expected under current law, another
federal agency (such as the Department of Justice) would have
to assume the paroling function and its inherent costs.
The United States Parole Commission received an
appropriation of $5.4 million for fiscal year 1996, down from
$7.5 million in 1995 and $9.1 million in 1994. Steadily
decreasing budgets are anticipated for the commission's
declining workload. Some requirements for the paroling function
will continue beyond 1997, however, when the commission in
currently scheduled to terminate. The costs of completing that
workload are likely to be roughly the some whether the paroling
function is conducted by the commission or another agency.
Thus, CBO estimates that enacting S. 1507 and continuing the
commission would not result in any significant costs to the
federal government, relative to current law.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Mark
June E. O'Neill, Director.
Inflationary Impact Statement
Pursuant to clause 2(l)(4) of rule XI of the Rules of the
House of Representatives, the Committee estimates that S. 1507
will have no significant inflationary impact on prices and
costs in the national economy.
Section 1. Short Title
This section states that the short title of the bill is the
``Parole Commission Phaseout Act of 1996.''
Sec. 2. Extension of the Parole Commission
Subsection (a) of this section extends the Parole
Commission for five years beyond its scheduled expiration date
of November 1, 1997.
Subsection (b) provides that the Commission may perform its
functions with any quorum of Commissioners or Commissioner, as
the Commission may prescribe by regulation. This recognizes
that, with the downsizing of the Commission and reduction in
the number of Commissioners, it will not be practical, or in
some cases even possible, to make decisions under the
procedures prescribed for the Commission when it was enacted in
1976. The Committee expects the Commission will establish, by
regulation, procedures that will include a provision for
administrative appeal or reconsideration of its decisions.
Subsection (c) provides for the downsizing of the number of
Commissioners to no more than two effective December 31, 1999,
and to no more than one (the Chair of the Commission), on
December 31, 2001. Upon the reduction of the number of
Commissioners to a single Commissioner, decision-making
authority may be delegated to hearing examiners. A decision
pursuant to this delegated authority shall take effect when
made, but shall be subject to reconsideration by the
Sec. 3. Reports by the Attorney General
Subsection (a) provides that the Attorney General shall
report to Congress by May 1 of each year on the status of the
United States Parole Commission, and to certify that the
continuation of the Commission is the most cost-effective and
efficient method for carrying out the Commission's functions.
If the Attorney General cannot so certify, then an alternative
plan for transferring the Commission's functions to another
entity must be included.
Subsection (b) provides that if the Attorney General
submits a plan to transfer the Commission's functions and
powers to another entity within the Department of Justice, such
plan shall take effect according to its term unless Congress by
law provides otherwise. It is the Committee's intent, and this
subsection further provides, that all laws pertaining to the
authority and jurisdiction of the Commission with respect to
individual offenders will remain in effect notwithstanding the
expiration of the fifteen-year period specified in Section 2 of
this Act. Such offenders will continue to serve their sentences
subject to all applicable penalty provisions. Additionally,
this subsection provides that, upon the taking effect of such
plan, paragraphs (3) and (4) of Sec. 235(b) of the Sentencing
Reform Act of 1984 are repealed.
It is the Committee's strong desire that the Attorney
General propose a reassignment of the Parole Commission's
duties at the earliest date possible. The Committee hopes that
further legislation on this issue will not be necessary.
Sec. 4. Repeal
This section repeals subsection (b)(2) of the Sentencing
Reform Act of 1894, a provision which extended the term of any
Parole Commissioner holding office on November 1, 1987, for the
duration of the Commission's existence. This repeal restores
the twelve-year limitation on the service of Parole
Commissioners in Sec. 4202 of title 18, United States Code. The
repeal of this subsection is necessary for the orderly
downsizing of the Parole Commission. It will reduce the number
of Parole Commissioners currently serving from four to three in
U.S. Department of Justice,
U.S. Parole Commission,
Chevy Chase, MD, July 22, 1996.
Hon. Bill McCollum,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime, Committee on the Judiciary,
Dear Congressman McCollum: I deeply appreciate the
consideration that the Subcommittee on Crime has given to the
U.S. Parole Commission and the personal interest taken by you
and your staff in resolving this issue in the present session
of Congress. I fully support the Amendment in the Nature of
Substitute to S. 1507 that you introduced and the Subcommittee
I now ask your further assistance in ensuring that the full
Committee approves this legislation at the earliest
opportunity. I have written to Chairman Hyde asking that this
be done, and I stand ready to assist in any way needed.
Edward F. Reilly, Jr., Chairman.
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported
In compliance with clause 3 of rule XIII of the Rules of
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets and
existing law in which no change is proposed is shown in roman):
SECTION 235 OF THE SENTENCING REFORM ACT OF 1984
Sec. 235. (a) * * *
(b)(1) * * *
[(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 4202 of
title 18, United States Code, as in effect on the day before
the effective date of this Act, the term of office of a
Commissioner who is in office on the effective date is extended
to the end of the five-year period after the effective date of
* * * * * * *